Archive for Mailbag
Mason asks: Why is Ichiro Suzuki an auto-cut? Wouldn’t that be Vernon Wells or is it both? I would rather cut Wells and use Ichiro as the 4th OF. Maybe I’m being a bit too sentimental but I wouldn’t want to do that to Ichiro even if he is below league average in multiple ways.
I don’t think Ichiro is an auto-cut at this point, but I wouldn’t call his roster spot safe either. The Yankees are reportedly shopping him and it’s not a bad idea to see if they can unload part of his contract. It’s not like he’s irreplaceable. Someone like Zoilo Almonte could do the same job for a fraction of the cost.
I definitely agree Wells is first in line to get the axe should the Yankees need a 40-man roster spot, which they inevitably will the next few weeks. Brian Roberts and Matt Thornton still need to be added to the roster, so that’s two spots right there. Wells brings pretty much nothing to the table (it’s remarkable, really) and he absolutely should go first.
As for Ichiro, his role right now is something of a glorified fifth outfielder. He is fifth on the outfield depth chart but because Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano will split right field and DH duties, Ichiro will be the first outfielder off the bench in most games. His primary job will be pinch-running and late-inning defense in right (regardless of whether Beltran or Soriano starts in the field).
The various projection systems crush Ichiro and expect him to be replacement level-ish next year, which is not unfair. He hasn’t hit at all these last three seasons and his defense slipped last year, particularly in the second half. Ichiro started only ten of the team’s final 17 games in 2013 and Joe Girardi was right to marginalize him. His name value far, far exceeds his on-field value at this point.
The Yankees won so much in the late-1990s thanks in part to their veteran-laden bench, which was filled with former stars like Tim Raines and Darryl Strawberry. Those guys accepted reduced roles and thrived in limited time. I don’t know if Ichiro can be that kind of player next year — he doesn’t have Stawberry’s power or either guy’s on-base ability — but that’s the best case scenario. For now, he’s a bench player the team should look to unload if possible.
Jag asks: Is Dean Anna any good? I know he’s been a career minor leaguer, but his stats seem to be solid. Why didn’t the Padres hold onto him?
The Yankees acquired Anna from the Padres for Single-A reliever RHP Ben Paullus last month. San Diego had no room for Anna on their 40-man roster, so rather than potentially lose him for nothing in the Rule 5 Draft, they flipped him for a low level minor leaguer. The Yankees needed the infield depth, so here we are. The obligatory stats:
|AA (2 seasons)||AA||756||120||165||34||4||12||70||9||4||107||95||.265||.380||.390||.770||14|
|AAA (1 season)||AAA||583||90||165||38||5||9||73||3||7||61||65||.331||.410||.482||.892||11|
Anna, who turned 27 a few days after the trade, was the Padres’ 28th round pick in the 2008 draft out of Ball State, which isn’t exactly a baseball powerhouse. He hit .319/.464/.628 with 17 doubles, 11 homers, 46 walks, and 17 strikeouts in 52 games as a junior but was only ranked as the 14th best prospect in Indiana prior to the draft by Baseball America (subs. req’d). Anna was never a highly regarded prospect and he’s had to earn his way up to Triple-A and onto the 40-man roster. Here’s a recent (as in right after the trade) scouting report from Baseball America (no subs. req’d):
Anna, drafted out of Ball State, is coming off his best pro season, winning the Pacific Coast League batting title while playing for Triple-A Tucson. He hit .331/.410/.482 and walked (61) almost as much as he struck out (65), a career-long trend. Anna lacks physicality and pop at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds and fits the utility profile as a lefthanded hitter. He’s played second base, shortstop and third base as well as the outfield corners, with a fringe-average arm and solid infield actions. He’s a reliable defender who made just 23 errors the last two seasons. He’s a below-average runner, the biggest hole in his utility profile. Anna has earned high marks in his career as a grinder and good teammate. He spent two weeks playing for Estrellas in the Dominican League but returned home after going 8-for-34 (.235) with four walks in nine games.
So what the Yankees have is an undersized 27-year-old middle infielder who has little power, doesn’t steal a ton of bases, isn’t a standout defender, and, until this past season in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, hasn’t hit for a high average in pro ball. That’s … not much of a prospect at all. That’s a spare part. An up-and-down bench player. The 25th man on the roster. Sure, the K/BB ratio(s) is sexy but there is more to life than walks and strikeouts.
Now, that said, Anna is certaintly a useful piece to have lying around, especially for a team with a thin big league infield like the Yankees. He’s something like the 38th or 39th man on the 40-man roster and will open the year with Triple-A Scranton awaiting the call when someone inevitably gets hurt or plays themselves off the team. The various projection systems are quite bullish about Anna — Oliver (2.0 WAR), ZiPS (1.6 WAR), Steamer (0.4 WAR) — but that is always the case with high-walk, low-strikeout players. You could make a case that playing him at second over the old and so very injury prone Brian Roberts make sense.
The Yankees were going to fill their 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft deadline one way or the other — either with one of their minor league relievers or someone like Anna. They opted for Anna, who was easily available and filled a very obvious need (they had not yet signed Kelly Johnson at the time of the trade). Since only one (Tommy Kahnle) of their many relievers was taken in the Rule 5 Draft, it’s tough to argue with the decision. Anna is an interesting enough player but the odds of him contributing in a meaningful way at the MLB level are small. In fact, if he’s starting for the team at some point next year, it likely means something went very wrong.
Frank asks: Can you give a rundown of what’s going on with Manny Banuelos? I know losing two years of development to injury has a way halting conversation, but he was our very best pitching prospect in the not-too-distant past, and he didn’t really do anything on the mound to dash all hope. Is there any chance he contributes to the big club in some capacity next season?
Banuelos, who is still only 22, has not pitched in a game since May 2012 due to a series of elbow problems, first a bone bruise and then Tommy John surgery. He reportedly tore the ligament while rehabbing from the bone bruise, which is why the surgery didn’t happen until October even though his season ended in May. Before the elbow problems, Banuelos missed about three weeks with a minor back issue. An appendetomy in 2010 rounds out his injury history.
Joel Sherman reported Banuelos was pitching in simulated games back in September and, a month later, VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed to Chad Jennings the southpaw will be ready for Spring Training. They opted not to send him to winter ball just to give him a rest after rehabbing for what amounts to 15 straight months. “Newman said he was reaching 92-94 mph with a good changeup and getting breaking balls over the plate,” wrote Jennings back in October.
If we take Newman’s word for it, Banuelos is healthy and his stuff has returned following the two elbow injuries. I know Tommy John surgery has a very good track record but there’s always that small chance the guy is never the same again. It happened to J.B. Cox back in the day and Ryan Madson sure seems to be having a devil of a time following the procedure as well. Here is what Baseball America (subs. req’d) wrote about Banuelos before the 2013 season, when they ranked him the team’s eighth best prospect:
Before he got hurt, his fastball sat at 91-94 mph and touched 96, with good tailing life at the lower end of that velocity range. He also threw a sharp curveball in the upper 70s and a tumbling changeup, giving him two above-average secondary pitches at his best. He had trouble harnessing his livelier stuff and was unable to make adjustments to throw quality strikes prior to his injury.
Brian Cashman confirmed at the Winter Meetings that Banuelos is ticketed for Triple-A Scranton to start 2014 and that makes sense. He has not pitched in competitive games for a long time and he’ll get a chance to get back in the groove in an environment where results don’t matter. David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Vidal Nuno give the team enough back of the rotation depth to start the year, so they’ll be able to bring Banuelos back slowly. As Baseball America indicated, he wasn’t exactly a finished product before the injury. The command (once his trademark) needs work.
Now, that said, I definitely think Banuelos could wind up helping the team at some point next season, probably in the second half. I thought he was in position to help them in the second half a year ago, before the elbow problems. The Yankees shouldn’t count on him for anything though, whatever he gives them is a bonus. Banuelos has lost enough development time these last two years. Next season has to be about getting back on track and ironing out the command first and foremost. If that leads to a big league audition — Banuelos is already on the 40-man roster — at some point, great. If not, there’s always 2015. He’s still so young.
Mason asks: Watching the press conference I couldn’t help but wonder what the Yankees’ postseason history would look like had they signed Carlos Beltran back when he was a free agent coming from the Astros. It just seems inconceivable looking back that they wouldn’t have brought him on. What changes if he is brought on in that offseason?
I’ve said this more than once and I still think it’s true: passing on Beltran during the 2004-2005 offseason was the team’s biggest mistake during the Brian Cashman era. I thought it was a no-brainer. Beltran was only 27 at the time and he was a 30/30-ish switch-hitter who got on base a ton and played very good defense in center. Bernie Williams was pretty much done and the team had no obvious long-term center field solution. He was perfect. The Yankees didn’t sign Beltran that winter and instead spent their money on Randy Johnson, which was justifiable. Starting pitching was a huge need as well.
Anyway, it’s impossible to say how things would have played out had they acquired Beltran instead of Johnson that winter, so this is nothing more than guesswork. The Yankees went to the postseason six times and won a World Series during the span of Beltran’s seven-year contract with the Mets and it’s not a guarantee he would have made things better. Remember, they were bounced from the postseason in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2010 largely because the pitching stunk. The hitting was a problem in 2011 and maybe having him would have helped them beat the Tigers in the ALDS. Otherwise the pitching was never good enough for one big bat to make a real difference.
Had the Yankees signed Beltran back in the day, I’m pretty sure they would not have signed Johnny Damon the following the winter. Damon was very good in New York but Beltran greatly outproduced him from 2006-2009 (135 wRC+ and 22.9 fWAR vs. 116 wRC+ and 12.7 fWAR). I do think they would have still re-signed Hideki Matsui that winter since he was a True Yankee™ and the difference in annual salary between Damon and Beltran was only $4M. Not enough to throw a wrench into future deals.
Is the Bobby Abreu trade still made with Beltran? Probably, since both Matsui and Gary Sheffield were hurt. Damon was both healthy and productive in 2006. I don’t think having Beltran would have changed Melky Cabrera‘s career path all that much aside from not getting the ill-advised call-up in 2005. There still would have been plenty of opportunity for him in 2006, which is when he played his way into a regular job (98 wRC+ and 1.6 fWAR, which he never repeated in New York). I don’t think the outfield picture would have looked radically different from 2005-2008, it just would have been Beltran in center and Melky in left instead of Melky in center and Damon in left.
The 2009 season is where this hypothetical gets interesting. Beltran’s knees started to give out that year and he missed close to three months in the middle of the season. He was healthy when September rolled around though, so the Yankees would have had him for their playoff push. That team was so good that I don’t think losing Beltran for three months would have derailed them. They won the division by eight games, though they were four back on the day he got hurt (June 21st). Maybe that leads to Cashman making a deal at the deadline. Matt Holliday was the big name outfielder traded that summer, but lesser guys like Nate McLouth, Mark DeRosa, and Scott Hairston were also dealt. A trade for one of those guys would have changed things quite a bit both that year and in future years depending on the trade package.
Beltran missed most of 2010 with knee problems but was healthy for the second half and a potential playoff drive. The Yankees made the postseason by seven games that year, so losing him wouldn’t have been a season-killer. Beltran was no longer a superstar at that time anyway. Going from him to say, McLouth for three months would have been a two or three win drop. That assumes McLouth would have been as terrible in New York as he was in Atlanta. The Rangers outscored the Yankees 38-19 in the ALCS that year and I doubt Beltran makes much of a difference. He was healthy in 2011 and could have made a difference in the ALDS, when New York lost three games to the Tigers by a total of four runs. Would that 2011 squad have beaten the Rangers in the ALCS or the Cardinals in the World Series? I don’t think so. Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia were the number two and three starters, remember.
Like I said earlier, this is all just guesswork. Beltran’s career path would have changed completely had he signed with the Yankees back in the day — maybe he would have avoided the knee problems all together or maybe he would have been hurt even more. Maybe the team signs Damon and lets Matsui walk instead. Maybe they can’t afford to trade for Abreu in 2006. Who knows? I thought the Yankees should have signed Beltran back in the day (especially after he offered to take a discount, geez) but I don’t think we can simply assume the club would have been better off from 2005-2011 just because he was on the team. Way too many variables in play.
Got seven questions for you this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us mailbag questions, links, comments, whatever.
Anonymous asks: Why not an A.J. Burnett reunion? He could easily eat up 200 innings and wouldn’t be that expensive and doesn’t require a draft pick.
I mentioned this to Joe yesterday. If it wasn’t for 2010-2011, wouldn’t Burnett be the perfect one-year stopgap for the Yankees if Masahiro Tanaka is not posted? He has a 3.41 ERA (3.17 FIP) over the last two seasons, he misses bats (8.90 K/9 and 23.6 K%), the walks aren’t out of control (2.95 BB/9 and 7.8 BB%), he gets grounders (56.7%), his velocity has been steady, and he’s thrown 180+ innings in each of the last six years. What more could you want?
Of course, it’ll never happen. Burnett was a disaster during his final two seasons in New York and I think the Javy Vazquez wound is still fresh enough to keep the team from trying a reunion. Burnett has said he will either pitch for the Pirates or retire next season, so maybe he wouldn’t even entertain the idea of coming to the Yankees. If he was open to it and his name was anything but A.J. Burnett … man he’d be a perfect fit.
Dustin asks: If the Yankees miss out on Tanaka or he doesn’t get posted, what do you think of the Yankees offering Ubaldo Jimenez or Matt Garza a one-year contract with a promise of not extending a qualifying offer? Yankees get a decent pitcher for one year that they can replace with one of the man good pitchers next off season, and Ubaldo/Garza can get to negotiate without having a pick attached to them. Do you think this is at all possible?
First, Garza will not cost a pick this winter, so that’s not an issue for him. He was traded at the deadline and a player has to be with their team for the full season to be eligible for the qualifying offer. Second, the Collective Bargaining Agreement strictly prohibits teams from promising they won’t extend the qualifying offer to help entice a free agent. I guess they could still do it under the table, but MLB is watching.
Third, I don’t think either guy would go for that. Ubaldo and Garza (and Ervin Santana for that matter) should have no trouble getting a nice multi-year contract as soon as the Tanaka situation is resolved. That is holding everything up, teams just want to know if he’ll be available before moving on to the alternatives. It would be hard for Ubaldo and Santana in particular to improve their stock in 2014 given their 2013 seasons. If any of those three are still sitting there unsigned when Spring Training rolls around, sure, make them a fat one-year offer. I just don’t expected them to still be on the board that long.
Kameron asks: Trey Haley was designated for assignment by the Indians yesterday. Do you think the Yankees should make a run at him? He has been around the 100 mph mark his entire career.
Yes, definitely. Haley’s name caught my eye when I saw the Tribe cut him to make room on the roster for John Axford. The 23-year-old had a 4.71 ERA (4.31 FIP) with 46 strikeouts and 39 walks in 44 innings at Double-A this season, so he’s a project. He has two minor league options remaining, so a team can afford to be patient with him.
Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked Haley as Cleveland’s 14th best prospect before the season, saying his “fastball now operates at 93-98 mph (and) has touched 100 (with) late, heavy life” and his “curveball had good depth … it shows flashes of becoming a plus offering.” The raw stuff is awesome — the Indians paid him $1.25M as a second round pick in 2008, so he didn’t come out of nowhere — but the general strike-throwing ability needs a lot of work. The Yankees have a tight 40-man roster but they could make room for an arm like this. Someone is going to trade for Haley or claim him off waivers and it would be cool if it was the Bombers.
Dale asks: If Seattle needs a backup catcher and are trying to move one of Dustin Ackley or Nick Franklin, would a Austin Romine for one of the two of them be fair enough? Or would we have to include another outfield prospect?
I don’t think Romine would be enough for either guy but especially not Franklin, who hasn’t been a Mariner long enough to have his value destroyed. A package of Romine plus a second prospect (Nik Turley? Jose Ramirez? Peter O’Brien? I have absolutely no idea) might be enough to land Ackley at this point, who I prefer to Franklin. I like the idea of buying super low on a guy who is only 25 and two years removed from being arguably the best hitter in the minors. Franklin is expected to be more of a solid regular long-term, and while that’s pretty good, I’d rather take a shot on Ackley’s talent while he’s still relatively young.
Adam asks: Thoughts on Carmol Marmol for the pen? Could he be a fit or is he done?
I don’t think he’s done, he’s just incredibly erratic. Marmol, 31, struck out 59 batters in 49 innings this past season (4.41 ERA and 5.19 FIP), but he also walked 40 (!). He’s got a 7.33 BB/9 and 18.0 BB% over the last two seasons. Few batters can miss bats as well as Marmol but few hit the strike zone less often. I’d take him on a minor league contract in a heartbeat — there’s always a chance it clicks and he has a Kimbrelian year or something — but I’d be wary about guaranteeing him a roster spot.
Jorge asks: Would you rather have a lineup composed of all 100 OPS+es or half 150 OPS+es and half 50 OPS+es?
Well, there are nine lineup spots, so let’s call it four 150 OPS+es, four 50 OPS+es, and one 100 OPS. The idea is that the nine spots would average out to a 100 OPS+ but that wouldn’t actually happen in real life. The four 150 OPS+es would be stacked at the top of the lineup and they’d get more at-bats than the 50 OPS+es. Instead of averaging out to a 100 OPS+, that lineup would average out to a 105 OPS+ or something like that.
Anyway, I’d much rather have a lineup of nine 100 OPS+ players. I prefer a deep and circular lineup to a top-heavy one. Those four 50 OPS+ spots are just killers. That’s three full innings in any given game where you have close to no chance to score. The lineup of league average hitters might not be sexy but the more good hitters you have, the better your chances are of scoring. Simple as that.
Jamie asks: What’s the difference between WAR used on Baseball-Reference.com and Fangraphs.com? And why can’t they just agree on one? I think a universal WAR algorithm would go a long way towards old school guys taking it more seriously than they do.
I agree that having one universal WAR would lead to it being taken more seriously, but I also think the different versions (we could throw WARP from Baseball Prospectus into this ring) are a feature, not a bug. The WAR model isn’t perfect and as long as the various systems are coming up with different numbers, they will continue to be tinkered with and improved. I consider that a good thing.
As for the differences, B-Ref uses Total Zone for position player defense while FanGraphs uses UZR. The different defensive stats lead to different player values. On the pitching side, B-Ref’s WAR is built on runs allowed while FanGraphs’ WAR is built on FIP. I prefer FanGraphs for position players and B-Ref for pitchers — FIP is theoretical and if you want to but a number on a player’s value, it should be based on what he’s done, not what we think he should have done — but either way WAR is not definitive. It’s one tool in the shed. The concept of WAR (combining everything a player does into one number) is a really good but it’s not close to being a finished product.
Only five questions this week, and some of the answers are kinda short. We must have received about a dozen different variations of the first two questions. Great minds think alike, I hear. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything.
Many people asked: What about Nick Franklin?
Now that Robinson Cano is locked in at second base for the next decade, the Mariners don’t have an obvious spot for the 22-year-old Franklin. He hit .225/.303/.382 (90 wRC+) with 12 homeruns and six stolen bases in 412 plate appearances this past season, his first taste of the show. Franklin is a switch-hitter who has always struggled against lefties, so much so that there’s been talk of making him hit exclusively left-handed. He’s the anti-Derek Jeter on defense — good amount of range but makes a lot of errors because he boots grounders and makes bad throws — and the total package is more solid regular than future All-Star.
Franklin has understandably been getting talked up as a trade chip since the Cano signing and the hype has surpassed reality, kinda like Mike Olt a year or so ago. He’s good but not truly great. The Yankees can use a young second baseman now and Franklin would certainly fit, though I don’t think the Mariners are ready to move him. They could always send him back to Triple-A and have him work at other positions or wait for a better offer. There’s no need to rush into a decision. I’m more intrigued by Dustin Ackley to be honest, because at least there’s All-Star caliber talent hiding in their somewhere. I’d rather see New York buy super low on him and hand him over to Kevin Long than pay market rate for Franklin. Franklin fits a need, no doubt, but I feel like there’s a disconnect between what he actually is and how he’s being valued.
Many people asked: What about moving Alfonso Soriano to second base?
This ain’t happening. Soriano hasn’t played second base at all since 2009 or regularly since 2005, and, in case you forgot, he was pretty terrible there. We saw it firsthand from 2001-2003. He wasn’t Eduardo Nunez bad, but he misplayed a lot of balls on the infield during his time there. Soriano is going to be 38 next month and he’s played 3.2 innings at second base over the last eight years. This isn’t even something the Yankees can seriously consider.
Andrew asks: Will Dean Anna be competing for a MLB roster spot in Spring Training or was he added purely for depth in the minors? I have not heard any discussion about him being a potential 2B option for the Yanks.
Can’t it be both, compete for a job in camp and be added for depth? The Yankees have an open position player spot right now — could be two if they cut one of Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki — and that figures to go to whatever infielder they acquire in the coming weeks. If they don’t add an infielder, Anna probably has to beat out Nunez for a roster spot. For some reason the incumbent always seems to have up in these competitions. I’m intrigued by Anna’s on-base skills and like him as an up-and-down depth player, but if he makes the team out of camp as even a semi-regular at second, something probably went wrong somewhere.
Andy asks: Can you make up what a potential Yankees line-up would look like now? Against both lefties and righties.
Given the roster as it sits today, meaning no obvious second/third baseman, here are the lineups I would run out there:
|vs. RHP||vs. LHP|
|1.||CF Jacoby Ellsbury||1.||CF Jacoby Ellsbury|
|2.||LF Brett Gardner||2.||SS Derek Jeter|
|3.||RF Carlos Beltran||3.||1B Mark Teixeira|
|4.||C Brian McCann||4.||DH Alfonso Soriano|
|5.||DH Alfonso Soriano||5.||RF Carlos Beltran|
|6.||1B Mark Teixeira||6.||C Frankie Cervelli|
|7.||3B Kelly Johnson||7.||3B Kelly Johnson|
|8.||SS Derek Jeter||8.||2B Brendan Ryan|
|9.||2B Brendan Ryan||9.||LF Brett Gardner|
You and I both know Jeter will bat second against righties and lefties as long as he’s healthy. That’s just the way it is. I would bat him lower in the order against righties until he shows he can hit them, however. The Cap’n had a 99 wRC+ against same-side pitchers even during his big bounceback 2012 season, so I’m skeptical about what he can do at his age and following what amounts to a lost season.
Ellsbury and Gardner had almost identical batting averages (.246 vs. 247) and on-base percentages (.317 vs. .323) against lefties last season, but Gardner hit for much more power (.071 vs. .180 ISO). That doesn’t really jibe with the rest of his career though. Ellsbury and Gardner have identical career 96 wRC+ against southpaws, so the tiebreaker goes to the guy who will steal 40+ bases no questions asked (who also happens to have a $153M contract). Batting Gardner ninth instead of eighth against lefties allows him to serve as a second leadoff man, so to speak.
The rest is pretty straight forward, right? Soriano was awesome last year but McCann is the (much) better hitter against right-handers, which is why I have him batting cleanup against righties. I’d use a straight splatoon at catcher as a way to give McCann regular time off as well. He’s going to need the rest, it comes with the territory, so you might as well rest him against southpaws and get Frankie in there. Jeter and Teixeira still mash left-handers (or at least they did the last time they were healthy), making them a natural fit for the two-three spots against southpaws.
Laying the lineup out like this makes it easy to see how much the team needs a second or third baseman, preferably a righty bat. Those lineups would look so much better if they moved Ryan to the bench, shifted Johnson to second, and had someone like Mark Reynolds to bat seventh or eighth, no?
Jon asks: Explain the minor league Rule 5 Draft. How could you just lose players for $12,000? How many could you protect? Could the Yankees have chosen players from other minor league teams for $12,000 or did their lack of room on the 40-man roster prevent it?
The lack of 40-man space has nothing to do with the ability to make picks in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. The minor league phase is pretty complicated, so I’ll direct you to this J.J. Cooper explanation. I don’t even fully understand it. All I know is that if you take a player in the minor league phase, he’s yours to keep. Those guys do not have to go through the same roster hoops as the players drafted in the Major League portion. The Rule 5 Draft exists as a way to give players an opportunity with a new organization if they’re buried or overlooked by their current team, and, for the most part, it accomplishes that goal.
We got a frickin’ ton of mailbag questions this week, probably the most ever. It didn’t help that I skipped last week’s mailbag because of Thanksgiving either. So, to make up for it, here’s a massive 17-question rapid fire mailbag. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to the best way to send us anything, but based on this week, you knew that already.
Many asked: Why didn’t the Yankees get in on Doug Fister? What would have been a comparable package?
Here is a quote from Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, courtesy of Andrew Stoeten: “[Tigers GM Dave Dombrowsiki] was looking for very specific things. He said, look, for a deal like this, and what he was going to look to do, we didn’t necessarily have the right fit.”
The Tigers took what they took for Fister because that’s what they wanted, not because it was the best value. They’re obviously very high on Ian Krol and Robbie Ray. Eduardo Nunez is basically Steve Lombardozzi, but the Yankees don’t really have a Krol (big league ready shutdown lefty reliever) or a Ray (high-end lefty starting pitcher prospect at Double-A). Cesar Cabral and Nik Turley are several notches below Krol and Ray. Fister is awesome; if Brian Cashman could have gotten him for a comparable package — pretty much everyone agrees it was a very light return — I’m sure he would have pulled the trigger.
Biggie asks: With the Cubs still a few years away from contending could the Yanks try to pry Mike Olt loose from them to man third? The Yankee prospects of value seem like they might fit the Cubs timetable to contend better than other teams. If so, what package gets that done?
Olt, 25, hit a weak .197/.302/.368 in 104 Triple-A games this season while battling vision problems. He got pretty overrated last winter but is a quality prospect, with big right-handed power and plenty good enough defense to remain at third. I don’t love him as a long-term solution at the hot corner but I think he’d be a great piece to have during his pre-arbitration years. The Cubs reportedly seek pitching and prospect-for-prospect trades rarely happen. Would David Phelps be enough? Does that make sense for the Yankees, who also need young pitching in the worst way?
Six questions and six answers this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip in the sidebar to send us whatever, whenever.
Several people asked: What about Jeff Niemann?
Niemann, 30, elected free agency earlier this week after the Rays outrighted him off their 40-man roster. He did not pitch at all this year and has been limited to one game since May 2012 due to a series of shoulder problems, most notably surgery to repair damage to his labrum and rotator cuff. Niemann’s had a lot of injury problems over the years, most dealing with his shoulder. That’s always scary.
Before the injury, the 6-foot-9, 285 lb. right-hander managed a 3.08 ERA (3.09 FIP) in 38 innings last season. He put up a 4.06 ERA (4.13 FIP) in 135.1 innings in 2011 while missing time with a back problem. Niemann never lived up to hype associated with being the fourth overall pick in the country (2004), but he was a rock solid mid-rotation guy who showed steady improvement — particularly when it came to getting strikeouts and ground balls — before this last round of injury problems.
Niemann had his surgery in April and it came with a 9-12 month recovery time. He recently told Bill Chastain that things are going well but a second half return is the most likely scenario while adding that he might not sign until he can get back on a mound and clubs can see him throw. I definitely have interest in Niemann since he’s reasonably young and has AL East/pennant race experience, but obviously the medicals need to check out. If he’s willing to take a minor league contract, absolutely. Go for it. If he wants something guaranteed right away … eh, that might be pushing it. Some team could cave and given him that 40-man spot, I suppose.
Dustin asks: Two recently DFA’d players to pick up on waivers if they fall to the Yanks: Tony Sipp and Felipe Paulino. Thoughts?
The 30-year-old Sipp was taken off the roster by the Diamondbacks earlier this week and he has the right to elect free agency, but he hasn’t done so yet. He pitched to a 4.78 ERA (4.88 FIP) in 37.2 innings in 2013 overall but we’re talking about a lefty specialist, overall numbers don’t tell the whole story. Sipp was hit hard by same-side hitters this past season (.378 wOBA and 6.05 FIP) but was much more effective from 2011-2012 (.288 wOBA and 4.16 FIP). If he wants to take a minor league deal and compete for a bullpen spot with Cesar Cabral and David Huff in camp, sure.
Paulino, 30, is in the same boat as Niemann. He already elected free agency but hasn’t pitched since June 2012 due to Tommy John and shoulder surgery, the latter of which is expected to sideline him until the second half of next year. Before that he was showing steady improvement, with a 1.67 ERA (3.25 FIP) in 37.2 innings in 2012 and a 4.46 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 139.1 innings in 2011. Niemann has a longer track record of success but I think these two are in the same exact situation. If the medicals check out and Paulino is willing to take a minor league contract, then let’s do it. If he wants something guaranteed, let someone else give him the 40-man spot.
Travis asks: Would a swap of Dellin Betances and Conor Gillaspie of the White Sox make sense for both sides? They love their large-framed pitchers and the Yankees have a need for a left-handed 3B/1B.
I think that’s fair value. Both Betances and Gillespie are former top prospects who are out of minor league options and have yet to really establish themselves at the big league level. The 26-year-old Gillaspie did play fairly regularly for the ChiSox this past season, hitting .245/.305/.390 (85 wRC+) with 13 homers in 452 plate appearances. His defense at the hot corner was a tick below-average. The Yankees would be banking on Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch boosting his numbers. I do think that trade makes sense for both teams and it’s worth noting the White Sox have shown interest in Betances before. Do they still like him? That’s the question.
Dave asks: Let’s say A-Rod gets suspended for all of 2014 and prior to the 2015 season, the Yankees buyout his remaining contract in a single $61M lump sum. How does that amount affect the luxury tax?
From what I have read, the Collective Bargaining Agreement does not address buyouts for a situation like this. I think it would be treated as a new contract, however. Essentially a one-year, $61M contract. If that’s the case, I think the Yankees would simply release him and pay the $61M over the next three years instead. I think a more likely buyout scenario is paying that $61M over six years (with interest) instead of three, doubling the term. The luxury tax hit would be recalculated in that situation but it’s not as simple as average annual value because the Yankees have already paid some amount of tax on that contract. The tax hit would be lowered, I’m just not sure how much. The most important thing to remember is A-Rod has no reason to take a penny less than what’s owed to him, it’s extremely unlikely he’ll agree to a buyout that makes all or part of that $61M disappear. He’ll make the Yankees release him before agreeing to take less money. That’s what I would do.
Nick asks: Nick Cafardo recently reported that Grady Sizemore was getting a lot of attention and that he should be ready for Spring Training. Now I know he shouldn’t be counted on for anything but don’t you think he’d be a good buy low candidate?
Did you know that Sizemore is 31 years old already? He’s not all that young anymore. That really snuck up on me. He hasn’t played in a game since September 2011 and when he did play, he kinda stunk (94 wRC+ in 2011, 81 wRC+ from 2010-2011). His list of injuries is so very long — left elbow inflammation and debridement (2009), sports hernia (2009), left knee microfracture surgery (2010), another sports hernia (2011), arthroscopic right knee surgery (2011), lower back surgery (2012), right knee microfracture surgery (2012) — that he’s basically the Eric Chavez of outfielders. If Sizemore is cool with taking a minor league deal and showing what he can do in Spring Training, by all means, bring him in. Maybe he has a 2012 Chavez year in him. My expectations are zero though.
Niq asks: Can you remind me what happens if the Yankees sign multiple free agents who received and turned down qualifying offers? Do they lose multiple picks? If not, doesn’t that make it easier to sign multiple top free agents? Thanks.
Oh yes, you will absolutely lose multiple picks for signing multiple qualified free agents. Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams can forfeit the picks they receive as compensation for losing their own qualified free agents as well. It didn’t used to work like that. So if the Yankees get a supplemental first round pick for Curtis Granderson signing elsewhere but sign two qualified free agents, they would lose their first rounder and the compensation pick for Granderson. If it’s feasible, I think you’re better off doing all your shopping in one offseason and losing two or three picks at once (like the Yankees did during the 2008-2009 offseason) than signing one big free agent each winter and forfeiting your first rounder every summer.
Nine questions this week, so it’s another rapid fire mailbag with short-ish answers. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at anytime.
Peter asks: Should the Yankees speak to the Tigers about trading for Drew Smyly and turn him back into a starter? How well do they match up and what would you give up?
To answer the question, yes, I think the Yankees should look to trade for Smyly so they can convert him back into a starter. Jon Morosi says the Tigers are fielding offers for Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello as a way to plug other roster holes and clear payroll with Smyly taking over the vacated rotation spot. The Yankees should have interest in all of those guys — slightly less interest in Porcello, who needs a good infield defense to be effective — including Smyly. I looked at the 24-year-old southpaw as a trade candidate last winter and everything still holds true, except he now has a season as elite reliever (2.37 ERA and 2.31 FIP) under his belt and one fewer year of team control. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski doesn’t trade for prospects (he trades them away), he’ll want big league pieces in return. Detroit needs bullpen help and I’d give them David Robertson (free agent after 2014) for Smyly (free agent after 2018) in a heartbeat, but I suspect it’ll cost a bit more than that.
Ross asks: With the focus on the $189 million goal this off-season, what’s the likelihood the Yankees give extra years to free agents with a lower average annual value to separate their offers from other bidders?
An example of this would be signing Brian McCann for eight years and $81M ($10.125M luxury tax hit) instead of five years and $75M ($15M tax hit). The extra years lower the average annual value and thus the luxury tax hit while putting a little more money in McCann’s pocket for his cooperation. The Collective Bargaining Agreement covers potential luxury tax circumvention, and this type of maneuver would fall under that. The league would flag it and probably void the deal. It’s a good idea in theory — I’ve seen people suggest giving Alex Rodriguez a multi-year extension worth $1M a year to lower his tax hit — but I don’t think it would fly in reality. MLB doesn’t take too kindly to teams trying to game the system.
Mark asks: How do you like Chris Iannetta as a consolation prize for losing out on McCann? Would add a little bit more power to the bottom of the order.
Iannetta, 30, hit .225/.358/.372 (111 wRC+) this past season and has a 100 wRC+ with a 15.5% walk rate over the last three seasons. He’s also usually good for double digit homers. Iannetta isn’t a good defensive catcher these days (2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 rankings) and he’s owed $10.225M through 2015 ($5.1125M tax hit). The Angels are looking to stay under the luxury tax threshold themselves and one way they’ve discussed doing that is by dealing Iannetta and giving the catching reigns to young Hank Conger. Iannetta is better than the guys the Yankees have in-house and if they don’t bring in another catcher via free agency, he makes sense as a trade target. The Halos want pitching, so maybe something like Adam Warren for Iannetta makes sense for both sides. Not sure if that’s enough though. Just spit-balling here.
Glen asks: The White Sox are open to trading Alexei Ramirez. What would it take to get him and should the Yankees do it?
Well, according to Mark Gonzales, the White Sox turned Carlos Martinez when the Cardinals offered the one-for-one swap prior to the trade deadline. Jon Heyman shot that down, which makes sense because I can’t imagine Chicago would decline an offer like that. They’d be crazy. The 32-year-old Ramirez is basically Eduardo Nunez with a better glove and a much more expensive contract ($10.25M tax hit through 2015). He’s a total hacker (3.2% walk rate last two years) with no power (.098). I would prefer simply signing Brendan Ryan, who will play similar (if not better) defense and hit for a lower average but come far, far cheaper. I know good shortstops are hard to find, but I am not a Ramirez fan at all.
Bill asks: Any interest in Matt Kemp as a trade target?
Yes, but two things need to happen first. For starters, the Dodgers would have to eat a whole bunch of money. Kemp is owed $128M through 2019 ($21.3M tax hit) and I’d be willing to take him on at $16M or so annually. That means Los Angeles would have to kick in about $32M or so, a lot in the real world but little relative to the contract. Secondly, Kemp would have to go through a very thorough physical. The guy had ankle surgery a few weeks ago and left shoulder (labrum) surgery last winter, plus he’s missed a bunch of time with hamstring problems the last two years. There is evidence that hitters who have their front shoulder surgically repaired (like Kemp last winter) can lose bat speed and power for a long time and perhaps permanently. Adrian Gonzalez is a very good example — his power isn’t nearly what it was pre-2010 shoulder surgery. It has to do with the mechanics (and biomechanics, I suppose) of the swing and everything like that. Click the link, it’s interesting stuff. Kemp just turned 29 in September and his upside (MVP level performance fro, 2011-2012) is so very high that it’s hard to ignore. The salary needs to be offset and the body (especially the shoulder) needs to be checked out first, but yes, I’m interested.
Aaron asks: Any interest in Gordon Beckham for 3B? I know its been a few years but I think he’s still young enough to handle the switch back over.
Not anymore. I liked Beckham a few years ago and thought he was salvageable, but we’re going on nearly 2,500 career plate appearances with an 86 wRC+ now (88 wRC+ in 2013). Yes, he is only 27 and a breakout could be right around the corner, but Matt Swartz projects him to earn $3.5M next year and that’s a little pricey for a reclamation project in my opinion. I don’t think the transition from second base over to third will be much of a problem — hell, he still might be an option at shortstop — but it’s everything else that comes along with it, namely the price tag and noodle bat.
Travis asks: I’m thinking outside the box and more than likely this is one of the stupidest things you’ve heard in a while, but what if a team traded for Josh Beckett and made him a closer? He’s a former Red Sock, so I wouldn’t suggest Yankees, but someone?
stupid outside the box. (Kidding!) Beckett, 33, made only eight starts this year before needing surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which is what effectively ended Chris Carpenter’s career. It’s serious stuff but not always a career-ender. Dillon Gee and Matt Harrison have both dealt with it recently and come back perfectly fine. Beckett’s stuff has been fading in recent years and he was only sitting 90-91 with his fastball before getting hurt this year, and he’s a very different pitcher at 90-91 than he was was 95-96 a few years ago. Maybe a move to relief will bring back some velocity. If he can’t hold up as a starter anymore following the surgery, the bullpen would be worth exploring. I wouldn’t want to be the one to trade for him and try it, though.
Mark asks: Assume the Yankees part ways with Robinson Cano, any chance you see them trying to acquire Ryan Braun? Or does he have too much baggage with his PED suspension? Not sure the Brewers are open to dealing him, but I suspect they are given how bad the team is. Assuming he is available, he could fill the void in RF or 3B (can’t be much worse than Miguel Cabrera), is just 29 and is signed to a super team-friendly deal through 2021 (when he turns 37) at $16.5 million per year.
Believe it or not, Braun is still pretty popular in Milwaukee. This isn’t an A-Rod situation where pretty much everyone hates him. Braun is beloved by fans and his team (again, unlike A-R0d) and there’s no real desire to get rid of him. He’s the franchise cornerstone and they’re going to move forward with him as the centerpiece despite the PED stuff. Even if they wanted to get rid of him, I don’t think the Yankees don’t have the pieces to get a player of that caliber. It’s not like the Brewers would just give him away to save face and money. It’s a nice idea — he’d fit wonderfully in right field (third base isn’t happening, I don’t think “can’t be much worse than Miguel Cabrera” is a good enough reason to play him there) — and in the middle of the lineup, but it ain’t happening.
Mike asks: Would Jed Lowrie make sense as a possible trade target? He’s in his last year of arbitration this season before becoming a free agent in 2015. He’s a SS who has played 3B and 2B in the past, and he had a good year where he stayed healthy (finally) in 2013. If Billy Beane was inclined to deal him (would he be?), what kind of package would the Yankees have to give up?
Yes, he definitely makes sense. The 29-year-old Lowrie managed to stay healthy for a full season for the first time in his career this past summer, hitting 15 homers with a 121 wRC+ in a pitcher’s park. He can play shortstop but his defense is spotty, though he does make up for it with the stick. Matt Swartz projects him to earn $4.8M in 2014 and there’s a decent chance he’ll be worth a qualifying offer after the season, meaning he’ll net a draft pick if he doesn’t sign a long-term contract. Again, I’m not sure if the Yankees have enough to swing a trade for a player of Lowrie’s caliber — for what it’s worth, Joel Sherman hears the Athletics aren’t looking to trade him in the wake of the Nick Punto signing — but he’s a definite fit at this point in time.
Eleven, yes eleven questions this week. I combined two into one so there are only ten answers. Needless to say, I went rapid fire. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us stuff, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Dustin asks: With Jarrod Saltalamacchia not getting a qualifying offer, does he become a more attractive option for the Yankees over Brian McCann? Or does the fact that he only has one above-average season keep McCann in the lead?
It’s a combination of several things, really. The lack of track record and defensive shortcomings mostly. I do think there’s a strong case to be made that Salty at his price (three years, $36M?) is a better deal than McCann at his price (five years, $80M plus a pick?). Given where the Yankees are as a franchise, with some young catchers on the way and payroll coming down, a shorter term deal for a backstop makes more sense than going big on McCann. I would prefer Carlos Ruiz in that case — he is a far better defender than Saltalamacchia, plus he should come even cheaper — but I think McCann is elite relative to his position. Guys like that are hard to pass up.
Nick asks: So it seems that Texas would be willing to move Ian Kinsler or Elvis Andrus. What would it take to get either? Andrus isn’t as attractive now because of that contract, but still should be considered. And Kinsler is always hurt.
Kinsler makes sense only if Robinson Cano signs elsewhere this winter. I don’t buy him as a first baseman or corner outfielder. I was excited about Andrus a year or two ago and thought he made a ton of sense as a Derek Jeter replacement — his free agency lined up perfectly with the end of Jeter’s contract (after 2014) — but I also thought he would continue to get better, not have a career-worst season in 2013. He’s owed $124.475M through 2022 ($13.8M luxury tax hit), which is scary. Furthermore, I’m not sure the Yankees and Rangers match up well for a trade. Texas is presumably looking for a young outfielder or high-end starter, two things New York a) doesn’t have, and b) needs itself.
Aside: Wouldn’t it make sense for the Rangers to trade both Andrus and Kinsler, then sign Cano and play Jurickson Profar at shortstop? Dealing Andrus and Kinsler would surely net them that young outfielder and high-end starter.
Ryan asks: I haven’t heard any mention of the Yankees and Nelson Cruz. His name hasn’t been floated on here since the trade rumors last January. Whats the deal? I would have though he’d be a great addition to the lineup.
Grant Brisbee explained why Cruz is such a risk yesterday, so I’ll link you to that. Long story short: Cruz is basically Alfonso Soriano without the defense. His numbers against righties aren’t anything special (.249/.299/.465 since 2011) and while home/road splits usually get way overblown, it’s hard to ignore how much more productive Cruz has been at his hitter-friendly home ballpark (.279/.340/.546 since 2011) than on the road (.247/.299/.432). The Yankees already have one Soriano, no need to give up a draft pick (Cruz received a qualifying offer) to get another.
Kevin asks: Juan Oviedo and Eric O’Flaherty seem like natural fits for the Yankees next year given the payroll and need for bullpen arms.
Oviedo is the pitcher formerly known as Leo Nunez, the ex-Marlins closer. He’s missed the last two seasons due to elbow problems that eventually required Tommy John surgery. I would bring him in on a minor league deal no questions asked, but there’s no way I’d guarantee him anything after missing two years. He took a minor league deal (with the Rays) last year and will have to take one again. O’Flaherty missed most of 2013 after having his elbow rebuilt. He was one of the most dominant lefty relievers in baseball before the injury (held same-side hitters to a .195 wOBA from 2011-2012) and I think he’ll get a nice contract this winter despite coming off surgery. Would he take one year and $2M to rebuild value? I’m not sure the Yankees can afford to go higher than that for an injured pitcher who won’t be ready until June or so.
Bryan asks: How about a flyer on Brett Anderson? The A’s have rotation depth and the cost wouldn’t be super high (you’d think) right now. Or would they be better off with a guy like Josh Johnson (who only costs money) if they want to take a gamble?
Man I love Anderson, but he just can’t stay healthy. He’s thrown more than 115 innings just once (175.1 in 2009) and over the last two years he’s been limited to 79.2 innings total. Anderson has been pretty awesome whenever he’s stayed healthy for more than a month at a time, but he’s going to make $8M next season. That’s a huge chunk of change for an always hurt pitcher. I’m not sure the Yankees can afford a risk like that. Payroll is tight as it is, and that doesn’t even factor in the trade cost. If I’m going to bring in a reclamation project starter, I’d go with Johnson because he only costs money. I’d prefer neither, to be honest.
Biggie asks: If Curtis Granderson accepts his qualifying offer would there be a market to trade him? What type of return would you expect? I would love him to accept, move him for another piece and sign Carlos Beltran for two years and $28M.
I don’t think the Yankees would have any trouble finding a taker for Granderson if he accepts the $14.1M qualifying offer. Chances are they could get a better prospect in return than they’d be able to select with the compensation pick as well. A contender in need of a bat like the Cardinals (if Beltran bolts), Tigers (for vacant left field), and Reds (if they don’t think Billy Hamilton is ready) would presumably show interest in Granderson on a one-year deal, ditto non-contenders like the Phillies, Mets, White Sox, Giants, Mariners, and Rockies. They wouldn’t get an elite prospect in return, but a rock solid Grade-B prospect who is at Double-A or higher. That’s very fair value if not a bargain.
Mike asks: What about Kelly Johnson as a free agent? He can fill in around the infield except at short and play the corners in the outfield.
If Cano does leave as a free agent and the Yankees decide to pass over David Adams and Corban Joseph as internal replacements, Johnson is the guy I’d want them to bring him to play second base. He shouldn’t required a multi-year contract like Omar Infante nor would he require the general headache of trading for Brandon Phillips. Johnson is a Yankee Stadium friendly left-handed hitter who hits for power (16+ homers in four straight years), plus he’ll steal a decent amount of bases and play solid defense. As an added bonus, he can also play left field in a pinch. The trade-off is a low average and strikeouts, which aren’t the end of the world for a number eight or nine hole hitter. Even if the Yankees re-sign Cano, Johnson makes sense as a lefty bat off the bench. Definite fit.
Tucker asks: While the idea of the Yankees signing Brian Wilson has been floated out there, and it definitely has a lot of appeal, I just can’t imagine him being willing to go to the barber, even if it means forfeiting a couple million. Do you agree with this?
Wilson already turned down a million bucks to shave his beard, but maybe $6-7M will change his mind? Ultimately, I think Wilson will wind up signing with a non-Yankees team because they’ll offer more money and guarantee him the closer’s job, not because he wouldn’t have to shave his beard. That would suck, he’s a perfect fit in my opinion (as long as you look beyond the beard and seemingly intentionally insufferable personality).
Thomas asks: Is there any chance that the Yankees try and get another full-time DH this season? If so, if he doesn’t retire, is it possible we would get another taste of Raul Ibanez? I’m sure Yankees fans would like to see him again.
Zac asks: Jason Kubel is one year removed from a 30-HR season and should come cheap following a poor year in which he battled injury. Is he s fit for the Yankees?
Going to lump these two together since Ibanez and Kubel are nearly the same exact player. If the Yankees don’t sign Beltran — he’s pretty much the only big name outfielder I can see them realistically signing — either guy would make sense as a part-time right fielder and part-time DH. They could also serve as that lefty bat off the bench I always seem to be talking about. New York could find a spot for their power even if they sign Beltran, though I think Ibanez is the safer bet at this point. Supposedly he’s only considering retirement or a return to the Mariners (he lives in Seattle during the offseason). As long as they keep him or Kubel away from lefties and have a defensive replacement handy, they’d make some sense for the current roster. I still don’t like the idea of adding a full-time DH. They need to keep that spot open for various old guys.
Anthony asks: Hey Mike, Chris Perez was just released by the Indians. Being that the Yankees will look to add a piece or two to the bullpen this offseason, do you think the team should give him a look? While I don’t see him serving as the closer, perhaps he can provide some value in the 7th or 8th?
I wrote about Perez in a mailbag back in May and said I wanted to see how he performed the rest of the season before thinking about him as an option for 2014. Well, from that date forward, he pitched to a 5.21 ERA (4.65 FIP) in 38 innings while opposing batters hit .283/.351/.520 against him. He and his wife were also arrested for drug possession. So … yeah, things didn’t go so well. The Indians got so sick of him that they didn’t even wait until the non-tender deadline to release him. Perez has really nasty stuff, but he clearly has some things to work on. I’m not sure if the Yankees have enough bullpen depth (or payroll space) to take on a second project reliever in addition to Dellin Betances.